Let Freedom Ring

The Liberty Bell by H.R.H. Moore
Ring loud that hallowed BELL!
Ring it long, ring it long;
Through the wide world let it tell
That Freedom’s strong

Independence Hall (under construction)

The Liberty Bell is more than just a symbol. Many of us think of it as a symbol of our country, but its significance goes much deeper. It represents FREEDOM. A freedom to do as you please. A freedom to think like you want. A freedom to celebrate as you choose. A freedom to follow the religion you want. A freedom to speak your mind. A freedom to protect yourself.  Those freedoms and many more are part of our heritage and the Liberty Bell is a symbol of all of that.

When you arrive at the pavilion holding the Liberty Bell you read a sign that says, “The Liberty Bell is a symbol of the American Revolution. It is a symbol of liberties gained and a reminder of liberties denied”.  The actual inscription on the Liberty Bell reads: Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.  This quote is actually from the Bible – Leviticus XXV, v.10.

1751 – the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly ordered a bell made to hang in the State building, now Independence Hall.  It was made to commemorate the golden anniversary of Penn’s Charter.  Made in London by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, it was purchased for about 100 pounds.  It cracked twice while being tested and was recast both times. The Bell weighs over 2,000 lbs and is 12 feet in circumference.

1753 – John Pass and John Stow from Philadelphia recast a new bell after it cracked during testing. They added more copper but people did not like the sound, so it was melted down and recast again. The bell was not liked, so another bell was ordered from Whitechapel. The funny part was – no one liked the sound of the new bell any better than the recast one. The Pass and Stow bell remained in the steeple and the Whitechapel bell was placed in the cupola to sound the hours.

The Liberty Bell tolled for important occasions – Franklin going to England, King Georges III’s becoming king, the 1st Continental Congress, and other such events during the revolution. The Liberty Bell was rung to bring all the citizens of Philadelphia together to hear the first official reading of the Declaration of Independence. (many dispute this as possible since the bell was already cracked at this time).

When did it crack? Hairline cracks were bored in bells to keep them from expanding.  The biggest crack appeared in 1846 to celebrate Washington’s birthday.

According to the Philadelphia Public Ledger, “The old Independence Bell rang its last clear note on Monday last in honor of the birthday of Washington and now hangs in the great city steeple irreparably cracked and dumb. It had been cracked before but was set in order of that day by having the edges of the fracture filed so as not to vibrate against each other. It gave out clear notes and loud, and appeared to be in excellent condition until noon, when it received a sort of compound fracture in a zig-zag direction through one of its sides which put it completely out of tune and left it a mere wreck of what it was.

1777 – Patriots took the bell out of the city to escape capture by the British Army when it occupied Philadelphia.  All bells were removed from the city, knowing the British would simply melt them down to make cannon balls.  The Liberty Bell was hidden under the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

1846 – workers repair the bell after it cracked sometime in the first half of the 19th century. The pair was only briefly successful.  It cracked again and the bell was taken from active service.  A sister bell still rings to this day in Williamsburg, Virginia. That one has never cracked.

1852 – the bell was taken from the bell tower and put on display in a small museum with other historic objects in Independence Hall.
Abolitionists used the picture of the Liberty Bell to represent their feeling that all men were created equal.  Actually, it was in an article written by William Lloyd Garrison in The Liberator where the first documented use of “the Liberty Bell” is seen.

1915 – a “spider” was installed inside the bell to keep the crack from spreading.

1920 – the bell rang to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote.

The Liberty Bell would travel around the country so people could see it, touch it, and get their pictures taken with it. A vital symbol of our country, people came from miles away just for a glimpse.  Unfortunately, many people chipped pieces of the bell away as a memento, thus damaging the bell even further.

Chief Little Bear, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, in 1915, at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

The second bell was given to St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church but melted during a fire. The remains of the bell were recast into another bell and given to Villanova University.

1976 – the bell was moved to a larger building so larger crowds could come and see it. While the building is run by the National Park Service, the city of Philadelphia owns the Liberty Bell. 
The myth of the bell ringing for the signing of the Declaration of Independence came from a story written for the Saturday Review by George Lippard.  The story relates an old bellman who is eagerly awaiting the announcement from Congress that the country has declared independence. His mood continues to deepen until a small boy runs up to tell him to ring the bell for freedom.  So many people fell in love with the story that it became reality to them.  While there is no historical fact stating the bell was rung that day, no one will deny the image the story evokes or how it makes people feel when they think about it.

In 1976, Queen Elizabeth II had a bell made by the same foundry to commemorate the 200th anniversary.  The full size replica is housed in a tower once intended for the original Liberty Bell on Third Street.

In 2003 a new home was built for the Liberty Bell. The interesting part of this construction was – that while creating this building, the remains of the President’s House were found and excavated. As you walk toward the building, you can travel through a virtual building which depicts where George Washington resided as our first president as well as the slave quarters where 8 of his slaves from Mount Vernon lived while working for him.

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